Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Communicating climate change

By Rosalie Nongebatu, Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation

23 May 2011, Apia, Samoa - Various presentations this morning on information and awareness-raising on the science of climate change at the Lessons for Future Action Conference, in Apia, Samoa, have pointed to the challenge of understanding the science of climate change and of actually getting the information to the community or to those affected.

Four speakers made presentations under the topic of information and awareness which looked at; awareness raising- understanding the risk; community perceptions of and responses to climate change and risk; baseline data needs - what is needed to attribute climate change; underpinning science and modelling tools; and communicating the science.

The awareness raising – understanding the risk was presented by Doctor Leonard Nurse an IPCC Lead Editor for the Small Islands Developing States from the University of West Indies in Barbados. He likened attribution, to any science process that identifies and seeks to account for the key factors that explain the observed climate change conditions.

Dr Leonard Nurse, IPCC Lead Editor for SIDS
Dr Nurse also spoke of the need to use available data to fill in the gaps that countries have in terms of climate change science.

The community perceptions of and responses to climate change and risk presentation was presented by Michael Taylor, from the Jamaican campus of the University of the West Indies who said it was interesting to note, particularly for the Caribbean, that 10 years after beginning to seriously consider climate change, a couple of things have changed.

“Certainly at the beginning, it seemed that the science was driving the information and awareness building, so whatever the science did, that came out as information. But ten years later, it’s almost the reverse – the desire for more and more information to facilitate information building is driving the science.”

Mr Taylor said the science needed, by looking at past lessons, is in fact any science that will support the key messages of climate change that have emerged.

Dr Michael Taylor, University of West Indies
“Whatever the science that is needed to critically evaluate those key messages – that’s the science that we need to build to underpin information and awareness building.

Meanwhile the Pacific Climate Change Editor Cherelle Jackson in her presentation said the biggest issue in communicating the science is that those who have the knowledge do not necessarily know how to communicate it to those who do not possess the knowledge, for example information from the scientists to the farmer or to primary school students.

Ms Jackson also spoke of the huge divide currently in the pacific between those in the know of climate change and those who don’t.

“The risk of this divide is that it leads to assumptions about climate change, that more often that are preposterous theories and linkages that have no scientific basis.”

The conference, which opened this morning in Apia, Samoa has around 140 participants from the pacific, Caribbean, Indian Ocean and other parts of the world who will be looking at how lessons learned can inform future climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in small island developing states, over the next three days.

The meeting is a partnership between the Australia Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency AusAid and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). It is hosted in Samoa from 23 to 25 May.


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